WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — After a nearly four-hour virtual meeting Tuesday night, Warwick School Committee members voted for a gradual return of students in grades K-6 under a hybrid learning model.
The meeting started with the reading of more than 40 public comments submitted to the committee, which gave explanations as to why students should or should not physically return to school as soon as possible.
Once the meeting picked up new business, school administration leaders proposed a plan that would have half of the kindergarten students return by Oct. 14. The remainder of kindergartners would return on the Oct. 15.
Under the plan, only half a grade would be returning at a time over a two-day span each.
- Kindergarten on Oct. 14-15
- Grade 1 on Oct. 20-21
- Grade 2 on Oct. 22-23
- Grade 3 on Oct. 26-27
- Grade 4 on Oct. 29-30
- Grade 5 on Nov. 4-5
School leaders noted by Oct. 23, the roughly 600 air purifiers the district needs should be delivered, though it could take around a week to install them.
Vice Chairwoman Judith Cobden said while she supported a hybrid model, the phased-in return of students still feels too rushed.
“Maybe we should have another week in between each grade?” Cobden suggested. “I just feel like we’re slamming kids in and I think slow and safe would be a better approach. I don’t feel like this is going slow.”
Before the committee took a vote, leaders decided to hear the rest of the new business on the agenda in order to make a more informed decision.
This included a plan for Grade 6 to return to the Warwick Veterans Memorial Middle School on Oct. 27-28, plus discussion around adding school buses and a proposal to increase pay for substitute teachers working amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Despite some initial push back, committee members later unanimously approved the reopening plan for grades K-5. The plan for Grade 6 students was approved 4-1.
Committee members discussed leaving the Grade 6 plan open to amend should the return of elementary students not go as smoothly as they hope.
Human Resources Manager Kim Ruggieri also laid out a plan to increase the COVID-19 rate of pay for substitute teachers.
Ruggieri noted while the proposed amount of $125 per day for the first 30 days appeared competitive in July, as the districts began to notify teachers of their placement, they were informed they would be teaching at other districts due to higher pay.
Under a tiered approach, Ruggieri proposed a new rate would start certified teachers at $225 per day, and increase to $250 per day after 10 days. For applicants with just a Bachelor’s degree, the rate would start at $150 per day and later increase to $175 per day.
School committee members passed the motion to approve the pay increase plan 5-0.